Winter flowering camellias


Two camellias reside in shade beneath the canopy formed by the combined planting of Golden Rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and ‘Jane’ magnolia (Magnolia x ‘Jane’). The shading is not so dense that the camellias do not set buds, but the effect is that flowering is delayed by a month or longer as identical varieties with more sunlight only a few feet away bloom in November.

Winter's Star camellia in late November
Winter’s Star camellia in late November

So, the sturdy, cold hardy hybrids ‘Winter’s Star’ and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ begin flowering as the worst of winter’s cold sets in, with the result that few flowers open fully without browning along the edges or turning completely brown from frosts and freezes. In early January many fat buds remain, and with several days above freezing these will begin to crack open. With another few days of sun and moderate warmth, the flowers will begin to display enough of the pink flower that the gardener is encouraged and nearly delighted at the prospect. And then, the next morning the flowers have turned to brown.

Snow on Winter's Joy camellia
Snow on Winter’s Joy camellia

This would be quite disappointing if it did not happen with such regularity, and in recent years I am pleased whenever any glimmer of the pink flower shows in January. Rarely do any buds make it to February without some internal damage from continued freezes so that the buds remain until spring, but there is no chance for them to become flowers.

Cold damaged camellia flower
Cold damaged camellia flower

Except, a few years ago there were unseasonably warm temperatures through December and January, and only in February was there any evidence of a typical winter. In this once in a lifetime winter, nearly every bud became a flower, with some lasting into the cold of February. But, since this one time phenomena has come and gone, there is no reason to expect that more than a scattered few of the buds on the camellias today will become flowers.

Winter's Interlude camellia
Winter’s Interlude camellia

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve never tried camellias but have always loved them! that last photo of the perfect pink one is stunning!

    1. Dave says:

      For gardens south of here I’d consider autumn and winter flowering camellias to be indispensable. Though you have a few more options than those of us further north flowers during these off seasons are treasured. And, no matter their reputation (which in this area is that they are finicky and marginal) camellias are tough and flower dependably as long as they are provided with the proper sun exposure. But, many varieties get big, so this is a consideration.

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